In a conference call with the TNT commentator crew (Steve Kerr, Kevin McHale, and Reggie Miller) and basketball media outlets from around the country, Steve Kerr was asked to compare the Carmelo Anthony saga to Amar’e’s departure from the Suns this summer. Kerr responded by saying that the circumstances were completely different because Amar’e would have stayed in Phoenix, but the Suns decided not to invest in the hyper-efficient forward’s suspect knees. Carmelo seems far less committal to the Nuggets, who have made it clear they would like to keep Carmelo for another six years. Instead, Kerr suggested, the way Bosh-Toronto played out might provide a more instructive example.
Could Kerr be on to something? After all, the two were selected 3-4 in the 2003 draft after one year of college experience. Both have silky offensive games predicated by excellent first steps and the ability to shoot out of the triple threat. Both are prolific, usually efficient, one-on-one scorers who play mediocre at best defense (each has career 107 DRatings). At 25, it’s becoming clear that neither player can singlehandedly carry a team to playoff glory. And like Bosh six months ago, Carmelo wants off his current team.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, it’s not hard to imagine Carmelo playing out the season in Denver. Once the season gets rolling, especially if the Nuggets are winning, Carmelo’s commitments to his team may inspire him to finish out his Denver contract.
With the blinding excitement that a potentially clever idea instills in me, I decided to ask someone who knows as much as anyone about the Raptors what he thought. Scott Phillips is a member of the Toronto über-blog, Raptors Republic, and he’s not buying the parallels. To Phillips, the key difference is not in the players’ skills or desires to leave, but the position of the franchises. In 2009, the Raptors seemed to be a team on the come, centered around a prolific scorer and underrated rebounder (Bosh), the Raptors added another matchup nightmare fresh off a run to the NBA Finals in Hedo Turkoglu. Instead, they missed the playoffs yet again, and with their not-so-super star due for major money, they decided to take the trade exception and rebuild. As Phillips wrote to me:
“Denver is [right now] where we wanted to be as Raptors fans. They may not be championship bound, but they are good contenders and with some return for Carmelo they should still be a playoff team. Had we traded Bosh for pieces last season, I’m not sure we would have been.”
This logic is why I’m becoming increasingly convinced that Melo will be playing in NYC– and that it would behoove the Nuggets to get something for it while they can. The Nuggets went into this offseason hoping to sign Melo to an extension. Instead, Carmelo, who owns a de facto player option because he must agree to an extension with any new team for a trade to happen, has pushed for a trade to Chicago, New Jersey or New York. Whispered rumors are building to plainspoken belief, and many agree that a deal is in the works to send him to New York—possibly for Anthony Randolph, Eddy Curry’s expiring contract and Danilo Gallinari.
If Denver can get those three assets in return, it’s a deal worth doing. That is, the Nuggets organization is in a position to trade Carmelo without losing too much ground in the West. It wouldn’t amount to hitting the reset button, but it might be a fresh start for a franchise that seems aimless, confused and confounded in the wake of Carmelo’s wanderlust.